On the red carpet before the 84th Academy Awards, an actress from The Artist showed up in what she described as “an eco-friendly dress,” made using recycled polyester and “cruelty-free silkworms.” This was supposed to make us feel better about the future of the planet. Mostly it just made us wonder why other fashion designers insist on forcing their silkworms to watch Michael Bay movies.
The ceremony itself began with an appearance by Morgan Freeman, who took a break from narrating his wife’s bridge club—“Since the dawn of time, humans have competed in games of skill and get your hand out of the Chex mix, Marcia, and play a card already”—to say in that Morgan Freemany way of his: “All of us. Are mesmerized by. The magic of the movies.” Not long after, the girls from Bridesmaids came out and told some penis jokes. And I thought to myself: the president from Deep Impact is right—amid all the awards and glamour, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is a celebration of the magic of an overweight lady pooping into a sink.
Billy Crystal returned after a long absence to host the Oscars for a ninth time. It quickly became apparent that he’d spent the years on an expedition to unearth and reclaim humanity’s oldest jokes. Here’s hoping he found them in Egypt because, you know, the pharaoh’s curse.
The Oscars remain the entertainment industry’s most prominent stage, if you don’t count the Super Bowl halftime show or Lindsay Lohan’s waterbed. Over the years, the Academy has tried the Oscars with cool younger hosts and square older hosts, with a rough edge and with an easy familiarity, in a boat and with a goat, and it’s time to admit that this is a show that cannot be saved. And you know what? We’re fine with that.
In fact, in the era of live blogs and Twitter, many of us have come to prefer an Oscars that errs on the side of biting the big one. It allows us to enjoy ourselves by expressing online just how much we’re not enjoying ourselves.
Imagine how tedious it would have been if the montage of film clips near the beginning of this year’s telecast had a discernible reason for existing. Then we wouldn’t have been able to tweet how we’d been denied the only montage for which there is genuine demand: Hollywood’s Half-Century of Gratuitous Nudity.
I’ve written about the Oscars for more than a decade now, and even attended a couple of times, and I can’t remember getting more pleasure out of one. This had almost nothing to do with the show itself. The amusement was derived from the ruthless one-liners and profanity-laced tirades scrolling over the computer screen.
It was crowd-sourced merriment. If Billy Crystal wasn’t going to make a bunch of jokes about the eccentric Nick Nolte, who on the red carpet revealed that he kept a crow as a pet and who sat through the show with a look on his face that said, “This is the best turnout ever for one of my Tupperware parties,” then we could shoulder the load.
With this new reality in mind, here are some do’s—and one important don’t—for the producers of future Oscars:
Do have more large-scale production numbers that don’t fulfill any apparent need. What exactly was the brainwave behind Sunday’s Cirque du Soleil performance: nothing conveys the wonderment of cinema quite like circus folk doing somersaults?
Do bring back the awkward audience applause to the death reel. Due to the forced silence this year, Whitney Houston and Liz Taylor must spend eternity never knowing for whom Hollywood would have had the lack of class to clap louder.
Do give us more filmed segments in which celebrities talk about the “art” of acting. This year we got Adam Sandler saying he reveals a little of his essence in each of his movies, and Robert De Niro—taking keen note of today’s hard economic times—lamenting that regular people don’t understand what millionaire actors go through, what with the sticking their tongues into Charlize Theron’s mouth all day.
There’s one critical don’t: don’t do anything different, Oscar. Don’t start trying to make a bad show. Keep trying to make what you think is a good show. In so doing, you’ll rarely fail to allow us to entertain ourselves.